His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great
Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great
By Peter Cummins
Photos: Courtesy of the Bureau of the Royal Household
Born on Monday, the fifth of December, 1927 at the Mount
Auburn Hospital, Cambridge, Massachusetts, HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej the
Great reached his seventy-fifth birthday yesterday. As the Thai people
celebrated this year’s anniversary of the birth of the world’s
longest-reigning Monarch, the Chiangmai Mail presents this
supplement, prepared by special correspondent Peter Cummins, as a “Happy
Birthday” tribute to our beloved King.
Majesty the King accompanied by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri
Sirindhorn, presided over the ceremony to lay the Foundation Stone of the
Khlong Tha Dan Dam Project under the Royal Initiation of His Majesty the
King at Ban Tha Dan, Muang Nakhon Nayok District, Nakhon Nayok Province on
June 2, 2001.
Majesty the King observing a combine harvester harvesting rice from the
demonstration rice field of the Royal Chitralada Project, in the compound of
Chitralada Villa on August 10, 2001.
In his Coronation Oath, promulgated on the fifth of May
1950, the newly-crowned Rama the Ninth vowed that, “We will reign with
righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people” and the
almost 53 years which have passed since that auspicious day, the concept of
“righteousness” has dominated his reign. In fact, the King has,
throughout his more than five decades of rule, constantly revered the
age-old Buddhist concept of ‘Kingship’ as defined in the “Sutta Pitaka”
of the “Tripitaka” in which a King is defined as “Mahasammata” - a
King of Righteousness. The Buddhist scriptures also define the genesis of
the universe and the progression of evils which befall mankind: greed,
stealing and lying and the inevitable repercussions of censure and
Our King has steadfastly reigned by these principles,
embodying good kingship in his own life and example and often speaking out
against the affliction of the evils so clearly spelled out in the Buddhist
philosophy - evils and afflictions which seem to have become progressively
worse in the past tumultuous year.
There will inevitably be some familiar material in parts
in this story, for the King’s development projects have been ongoing for
more than 50 years and there is, of course, a historical perspective which
has been encapsulated.
Many events are planned throughout the Kingdom to
celebrate His Majesty’s birthday and it is known that two universities in
Australia (Woolongong and Tasmania) will be granting the King Honorary
Doctorate degrees for his tremendous contributions to world understanding
One of the King’s many official duties during the year
has been to open the new Rama VIII Bridge on the 20th
of September. The 475-metre long stay cable bridge was commissioned by His
Majesty in July 1996 and it was constructed to commemorate King Ananda
Mahidol, Rama the Eighth. King Bhumibol introduced a number of aesthetic
designs based upon the former King’s royal seal. As in all of the King’s
ideas, the new bridge was designed and built to have the least possible
effect on the environment on the Chao Phraya River, the riverbanks and the
surrounding river approaches.
The Rama VIII Bridge links the west of Bangkok to the
east, starting from the outer Bangkok Ring Road, to connect to the Eastern
After the official opening, the City of Bangkok presented
His Majesty with a 24K gold model of the bridge, and a gold plate with the
bridge engraved upon it to HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn who
accompanied the King at the opening.
Over the years, the King has established five Royal
Development Study Centres - or, as they are better known - “Living
Museums” - situated in the roughest terrain in their respective regions.
These centres are the locale for experiments in re-forestation, irrigation,
land development and farm technology which are conducted to find practical
applications within the constraints of local conditions, geography and
topography. His Majesty’s aim is to restore the natural balance, to enable
people to become self-supporting.
The first centre organized was that of Khao Hin Son, in
the rocky area of Chachoengsao’s Phanom Sarakam District. Here, the centre
studies how to turn the barren soil, caused by de-forestation, back into
fertile land again.
Other centres are located at strategic places around the
Kingdom. The Pikul Thong Centre at Narathiwat studies the swampy, acidic
land of the southern-most region.
The Phu Phan Centre in Sakhon Nakhon studies soil
salinization and irrigation in the country’s biggest region, the Northeast
which suffers from endemic drought.
The Krung Kraben Bay Centre in Chantaburi examines the
rehabilitation of mangrove forests and coastal areas following massive
The Huay Sai Centre in Petchaburi studies the
rehabilitation of degraded forests and shows villagers, in their turn, how
to protect the forests.
When he is in doubt, the King will fly over a particular
area, armed with aerial photographs and maps of the terrain, noting features
as they pass underneath. But, being a good photographer himself, he also
takes his own pictures and later juxtaposes them over the charts to obtain a
detailed image of the area of his concern which helps in his planning of
specific development projects.
Throughout the more than five decades that the King has
ruled Thailand, not only Thais, but people around the world have become
accustomed to seeing His Majesty travelling to remote areas of the country.
He works with and - brings rational development to - even the poorest and
most disadvantage groups. He is often filmed leading officials, farmers and
many diverse groups up rough mountain trails, over bridges, punting along in
small sampans, to initiate sustainable projects and ideas, aimed at helping
the many who have been forgotten or left behind in the development process.
His Majesty’s insightful approach to local prevailing
conditions has enabled him to improvise new theories for agricultural
development, to provide guidelines for educating farmers on
self-sufficiency, and to solve problems of goitre by feeding iodine into
salt roads at strategic points.
In all these works, His Majesty has promoted a simple
approach using environmentally-friendly techniques and utilizing moderate
amounts of locally available resources. For example, before environmentalism
became a major force in the development equation, His Majesty was using
vetiver grass to prevent erosion, controlling ground water level to reduce
soil acidity, and seeding clouds with simple materials such as dry ice, to
The King’s philosophy to development problems has been
to “keep it simple”, relying on an intimate knowledge of Nature and her
immutable laws, such as using fresh water to flush out polluted water or
dilute it through utilization of normal tidal fluctuations. The ubiquitous
water hyacinth, too, can be ‘harnessed’ to absorb pollutants.
The results of any development, the King asserts, must
reach the people directly as a means of overcoming immediate problems,
translating into “enough to live, enough to eat”, while looking at a
longer-term result of “living well and eating well.”
His Majesty compares this to using “adharma” (evil)
to fight evil, observing that both pollution and the water weed are a
menace, but they can be used to counteract each other, thus lessening the
damage to the environment.
The King himself practices this “simple approach” and
brings a down- to-earth approach to which the people can readily relate. He
studies and deliberates exhaustively on the particular project and then
reveals his thinking in short, easy-to-grasp titles. The very simplicity
belies the profundity of the philosophy, for each title reflects a much
deeper insight into a given problem and often, at the same time, hints at
the mode of operation to be employed.
A major working principle has been a true knowledge of
and reliance upon the immutable laws of Nature in solving problems and
resolving abnormal conditions, such as using fresh water to flush out
polluted water, as in his analogy “good water chases bad” referring to
the hyacinth/water pollution problem in the Chao Phraya, for example.
It was in 1969 that the King, vitally concerned about the
Hill Tribes’ cultivation of and addiction to opium, established the Royal
Project, the first manifestation being a Hmong village on Doi Pui in Chiang
Mai Province. Development has now spread to Chiang Rai, Lamphun and Mae Hong
Over the years, the Projects have been instrumental in
the conversion of the poppy fields being turned into groves of temperate
fruits and vegetables. It is under the dynamic direction of the King’s
close colleague, friend and confidant, Prince Bhisadej Rajanee who manages
the projects from his base at the Chiang Mai University, that there are now
five research stations and 35 Royal Project Development Centres which
incorporate some 300 villages, comprising 14,000 households and
approximately 90,000 farmers.
The Royal Development Projects Board, under the Office of
the Prime Minister, also serves as the secretariat for the Chai Pattana
Foundation which is directly responsible for the work related to the Royal
Thus, more than three decades later, the results can be
seen in the new life which has come to many of the mountain villages.
Greenery has returned to areas once denuded of forest cover through the
highly-destructive slash-and-burn agriculture, leaving only barren hills in
its wake, and the opium cultivation, a cause of extreme national concern, is
relegated to the dust-bin of history.
“The key to the success of the Project lies in His
Majesty’s guidelines,” explains Prince Bhisadej. “They focus on
obtaining knowledge, through research, avoiding bureaucratic entanglements
and swift action to respond to the villagers’ needs, while promoting
self-reliance,” he adds.
“The effectiveness of this approach has been applauded
internationally. For example, in 1998 the Royal Project won both the
“Magsaysay Award for International Understanding” and the “Thai Expo
Award for the Highest Quality Standard of Thai Goods for Export.”
The King’s own views are that development must respect
different regions’ geography and peoples’ way of life. “We cannot
impose our ideas on the people - only suggest. We must meet them, ascertain
their needs and then propose what can be done to meet their expectations,”
the King pointed out recently.
The King’s ideas are in direct contrast to the
bureaucracy’s wish to impose standards from the top down, with the
inflexibility inherent therein. “Don’t be glued to the textbook,” he
admonishes developers “who”, he said, “must compromise and come to
terms with the natural and social environment of the community”.
The King sees no need to spare any sensitivities - if
there are any - because he feels that the government approach is costly and
authoritarian which is why it has “failed miserably to address the
The Sporting Life
Of course, His Majesty is highly pleased with the
performance of Thai tennis star, Paradorn Srichapan who has raised the Thai
flag the highest it has ever been on the international tennis circuit,
returning home just last month to a tumultuous welcome and given a hero’s
King receives a yachting trophy from HM the Queen, Klai Kangwol Palace ca.
His Majesty honoured Paradorn with a Royal audience at
Chitrlada Palace on Thursday, November 14, awarding him the “Phra
Mahajanaka Medal”, a singular honour only given to those who achieve
highest levels through long-term patience and determination. Paradorn, in
turn, presented His Majesty with the trophy he won in the TD Waterhouse Cup,
the first title of his career.
King sails off the Klai Kangwol Palace, ca. 1987.
In the presence of his father and coach, Chanachai who
also received praise from the King for bringing his son into top rankings,
the King said: “Keep on doing your best and striving for discipline. His
Majesty knew every tournament in which Paradorn had played and even recalled
the names of competitors whom Paradorn had defeated.
“The King was especially pleased with the way Paradorn
greeted the crowds with a wai at the end of every tournament,”
Chanachai noted with justifiable pride.
The Phuket King’s Cup Regatta, inaugurated in 1987 to
honour the King on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, has been held
every year since then, with this year’s regatta, celebrating his
seventy-fifth birthday, starting on Monday, the second of December.
The now-famous “Phuket Regatta Week” will extend
until Saturday the seventh, with the King’s birthday on Thursday, the
fifth, comprising a yacht race sponsored by the Mom Tri’s Boathouse and
Landrover, Thailand. There will be a candle-lit ceremony on Kata Beach in
front of the Boathouse, timed to co-ordinate with Kingdom-wide celebrations
for the beloved Monarch.
Bhisadej Rajanee introduces Peter Cummins to HM the King, at Klai Kangwol
The King has consistently encouraged ALL sportsmen and
women EVERYWHERE, to “put the sporting spirit first, strive for victory -
and friendship” and his own example has always been a great source of
inspiration to athletes: every sailor knows that His Majesty is a Gold Medal
helmsman, winning the OK Dinghy Class in the Fourth South East Asian
Peninsular Games 35 years ago on the 16th of December 1967 - this day now
celebrated as “National Sports Day” in the Kingdom.
This nautical record, unlikely to be equalled in the
annals of sporting history, is matched by a land-based one, when in Bangkok
in 1998 the King became the only person to have lit the torch opening the
Asian Games on four occasions.
His Majesty is also well known as being
highly-knowledgeable about many sports having, at various times,
participated himself in skiing, motor racing, ice-skating, badminton,
tennis, swimming and even a little golf.
As the then-president of the Thailand Olympic Committee,
the late Air Chief Marshal Dawee Chullasapya emphasized when presenting the
King with the highly-prestigious honour of “The Insignia of the Olympic
Order” at the Rajanives Hall, Chitralada Palace in December 1987, “The
King is not just a world-class yachtsman, but he has also participated in -
and encouraged - many other sports.
“The Olympic award was made not only to recognize the
King’s prowess as a dinghy sailor,” said ACM Dawee, “but also to
acknowledge the leading role he has played in promoting all sports - in
Thailand, in the region and internationally - always displaying a firm grasp
on the history and the finer points of a multitude of sports.”
dinghy yard at Klai Kangwol Palace: still the scene of active racing.
Even in boxing, the King has proved to be a great example. Just last
year, president of the World Boxing Council, Dr Jose Sulaiman, in bestowing
upon His Majesty the WBC’s “Golden Shining Symbol of World Leadership
Award” was “amazed at the King’s knowledge of boxing”. Whereupon,
the King urged Dr Sulaiman “to promote boxing not only as a sport to win
titles, but also as an art of self-defence.”
As one would expect from a Monarch defined
as “Mahasammata”, or a “King of Righteousness”, by all the people
and who, upon his accession to the Throne in 1950, embraced the “Tenfold
Moral principles of the Sovereign”, His Majesty has ruled quietly and
Starting very early in his reign and
continuing to this day, the King, usually accompanied by the Queen and
second daughter Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, travelled to the far
corners of the kingdom to learn first-hand from the farmers and peoples of
the rural areas about their problems.
Again, as with all his other interests,
the Monarch studies, observes, photographs and imbues himself with all the
relevant knowledge and facts which he needs to move forward with
recommendations, implementation of beneficial projects and follow-up.
The Thai Monarch is probably best known,
universally, for his unbending resolve to improve the lives of each and
every one of his people – a singular dedication to their welfare which has
been acclaimed from all corners of the world.
A lasting image of the King is that of a
man, often kneeling or sitting on the ground, poring over charts and
topographical maps of the area, while surrounded by local farmers and
villagers discussing their problems.
It has been recorded that the King has
spent more than 200 days per year, for more than three decades, in rural
areas where he has initiated some 2,000 projects aimed solely at improving
the well-being of his people.
Thus, through the illustrious decades of
his rule, the King has been the very embodiment of his “Oath of
Accession” that “We will reign with Righteousness for the Benefit and
Happiness of the Siamese People.”
The world’s longest-reigning Monarch, this week
celebrating his seventy-fifth birthday, continues to be, as he has been for
the half-century of his just reign, “The light of his land, the pride of
his people and a shining example to all peoples of a troubled world.”